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Social Security Dependent Benefits

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What are “Dependent Benefits” for Social Security Purposes?

Social security programs allow a person to receive governmental financial assistance for retirement or disability.  In some cases, the dependent of a social security recipient can also qualify for benefits on behalf of the wage earner. 

Dependent benefits usually take the form of monthly payments issued to the child if the wage earner has chosen to take their social security retirement checks earlier.  Benefits may also be available to dependents of a person who has become deceased.  These are known as “survivor benefits” and have a different set of requirements.

The amount of benefits that a dependent can receive on behalf of a parent will depend on many factors, mainly the amount of social security taxes that the parent has been paying.  The parent’s own social security payments won’t be decreased if their dependents are receiving payments as well.  

Who is Considered a Dependent for Social Security Purposes?

For social security insurance purposes, a “Dependent” may be the insured persons:

  • Biological child
  • Adopted child
  • Stepchild

In some cases, a dependent grandchild of the insured can also qualify to receive benefits.  However, all of these types of relationships must be legally enforceable in order to list the child as a dependent.  

In some cases, spouses or even divorced spouses are referred to as “dependents”, but these will have their own separate requirements for social security benefits. 

Which Dependents are Eligible for Social Security Benefits?

In order to be eligible for social security benefits, the insured person’s dependents must be:

  • Unmarried AND under the age of 18; OR
  • 18 or 19 years old and full time grade-school student (no higher than 12th grade); OR
  • 18 years or older and disabled from a disability (the disability must have started before the age of 22 years old)
    Dependent benefits for social security will generally cease once the child reaches 18.  For dependents claiming benefits under the “student” category, their benefits will cease once they graduate high school or two months after they turn age 19 (whichever is sooner).

Do I Need a Lawyer for Assistance with Social Security Benefits for Dependents?

Social security benefits can often be very complex and sometimes confusing.  They may become even more complex when your dependents are listed for benefits as well.  You may wish to consult with a government lawyer for advice if you have any questions or disputes over social security dependent benefits.  Dependent benefits can often affect other areas of your income, including tax statements and child support payments if applicable.   

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 07-25-2018 10:25 PM PDT

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